The R&A has announced that Sandy SCOTT has been forced to withdraw from the Great Britain and Ireland (GB&I) Walker Cup team due to a wrist ligament injury.
Scott first picked up the injury in October 2020 and subsequently underwent minor surgery in January. He had originally been expected to return to competitive action for Texas Tech University in mid-March. However, having missed a number of recent college events it had become clear that his recovery was not going as planned.
The R&A had been obligated to select Scott at the end of March, despite his lack of recent play, due to him being one of the two highest ranked GB&I players in the World Amateur Golf Ranking. He was 8th in WAGR and GB&I’s highest ranked player when the Selection Committee met.
Jack DYER will now step up from first reserve to take his place in the GB&I side that will play USA in 24 days time at Seminole Golf Club on 8th-9th May. Dyer enjoyed an excellent tour of South Africa earlier this year and should arrive match fit and with confidence.
Jack Dyer – South African Amateur Medalist (Photo: Ernest Blignault / Golf RSA)
Following this change the GB&I team will now consist of 8 English players and 2 Irish with no Scottish or Welsh representation.
Jake BOLTON moves up to first reserve.
Florida-based Englishman Joe PAGDIN (19) has been added to the squad as second reserve. The University of Florida freshman has plenty of experience and has previously successfully represented GB&I in the Jacques Leglise Trophy and England in the R&A Boys’ Home Internationals and the European Boys Amateur Team Championship.
There are 7 English, 2 Irish, 1 Scottish and 0 Welsh players in the 2021 GB&I team.
Joe LONG (ENG) earned his place on the team by winning the 125th Amateur Championship at Royal Birkdale G.C. in August 2020.
Sandy SCOTT (SCO) and Alex FITZPATRICK (ENG) secured their places as the two highest ranked GB&I players in the World Amateur Golf Ranking (WAGR) at the time of selection. They are also the only two players to return from the 2019 match at Royal Liverpool G.C.
The remaining seven players and two reserves were selected by the four-man Selection Committee which comprised Pádraig HOGAN (Chairman / Ireland), Stuart WILSON (Captain / Scotland), Nigel EDWARDS (England) and Carl ROWE (Wales).
The Covid-19 pandemic has complicated the selection process with home-based players largely unable to make their cases with few competitive opportunities in the last 6 months.
It is therefore no surprise to see six of the ten-man team made up of US college players, namely, Barclay Brown (Stanford), Alex Fitzpatrick (Wake Forest), Angus Flanagan (Minnesota), John Murphy (Louisville), Mark Power (Wake Forest) and Sandy Scott (Texas Tech).
Callum FARR (ENG), Tom MCKIBBIN (IRL), Joe PAGDIN (ENG) and Caolan RAFFERTY (IRL), who were all in the original 15-man GB&I Walker Cup Squad announced on 2nd December, missed out.
Jack DYER (ENG) played his way into the picture from outside the Squad with a series of very good results in South Africa early in 2021.
With 50 days to go until the 2021 Walker Cup match starts at Seminole G.C. here are the 10 players I would currently select for the Great Britain and Ireland (GB&I) team.
In the spirit of fairness I have tried to find a balance between players who have been performing well overseas and those that have been unable to play due to the COVID-19 pandemic but were previously trending towards selection.
My selection is primarily an objective one based on playing results, preferably recent as I would prefer a ‘match fit’ team. I do not know the players well enough to take into account personalities and team dynamics which I accept would be a part of a wider selection decision.
This is not a prediction of what The R&A Selection Committee will do. Indeed if it were a few names would be different, particularly as the Chairman Pádraig Hogan has publically stated they will automatically be including the two highest ranked WAGR players at the end of March.
I have included extracts from each player’s SPWAR and WAGR playing records so you can view their form and results for yourself. Unfortunately due to some recent IT issues the SPWAR is still catching up on some events in March. I consider the SPWAR to be far more accurate so always favour it’s ranking over that of WAGR.
Here are my leading 10 players: –
1. Alex FITZPATRICK (ENG) ⇑18 SPWAR #24 / WAGR #24
I didn’t pick Alex for my 2019 team (which he made) and back in October I had him in 19th place in my 2021 team list. All I’ve ever wanted was results to back up his longstanding reputation as a great prospect. I have been pleased to see that he’s consistently delivered them over the last 6 months. With two wins, including this week’s Valspar Collegiate (not yet shown in the tables below), the in form Wake Forest man has separated himself from the pack.
Alex Fitzpatrick – SPWAR Playing Record 2020-21
Alex Fitzpatrick – WAGR Playing Record 2020-21
2. Mark POWER (IRL) ⇑1 SPWAR #44 / WAGR #28
Mark enjoyed a strong summer back home playing very well in the Amateur Championship and Brabazon Trophy. He has continued to play well for Wake Forest on the US College circuit in his sophomore year and finished T16 in the Valspar Collegiate this week (not shown below). He has plenty of match play experience representing Ireland and GB&I in boys and men’s tournaments.
Mark Power – SPWAR Playing Record 2020-21
Mark Power – WAGR Playing Record 2020-21
3. Jack DYER (ENG) ⇑11 SPWAR #31 / WAGR #238
Jack has backed up his good summer on the British amateur circuit by performing very well in South Africa in recent months. To feature prominently in five big events over there, including medalist and runner-up honours in the South African Amateur Championship, gives me a lot of confidence. I have a much higher regard for South African golf and golfers than the WAGR does. He offers what few other GB&I potential players can at the moment – U.S. experience from his college days (the first two years of which were in Fort Lauderdale, Florida), recent match play results and competitive form.
Jack Dyer – SPWAR Playing Record 2020-21
Jack Dyer – WAGR Playing Record 2020-21
4. Ben SCHMIDT (ENG) ⇑6 SPWAR #63 / WAGR #31
Ben secured his place in my team with his T11 result at the Jones Cup in February which showed he had lost none of his ability or competitive spirit during the COVID-19 lock down. He has been one of our better players since 2019 and deserves his chance on the biggest stage in May.
Ben Schmidt – SPWAR Playing Record 2020-21
Ben Schmidt – WAGR Playing Record 2020-21
5. Joe LONG (ENG) ⇓4 SPWAR #18 / WAGR #47
Joe returned to South Africa again during the winter. After a couple of disappointing European Tour pro events in late 2020 he only played in one of the South African amateur events where he was disqualified. As the reigning Amateur champion and on the back of an impressive couple of seasons he must be selected for the GB&I team but his lack of recent outings are a concern. We will see where his game is when he takes up his Masters invitation at Augusta in a few weeks time.
Joe Long – SPWAR Playing Record 2020-21
Joe Long – WAGR Playing Record 2020-21
6. Matty LAMB (ENG) ⇓4 SPWAR #90 / WAGR #86
Matty proved to be one of our better players in 2020 when play recommenced after lockdown winning both the Tillman Trophy and North of England Amateur. It was encouraging to see him also perform well against a strong field at the Jones Cup in February. With a 2021 EuroPro Tour card already earned he deserves his Walker Cup amateur send off.
Matty Lamb – SPWAR Playing Record 2020-21
Matty Lamb – WAGR Playing Record 2020-21
7. John MURPHY (IRL) ⇑13 SPWAR #76 / WAGR #117
John has played his way on to my team on the back of his T6 at the Jones Cup and continued solid play for Louisville University. Not shown below he also finished 2nd at the V1 Sports General Hackler Invitational in South Carolina this week. If he can follow that up with another solid outing at the John Hayt Collegiate Invitational in Florida on 28-29 March the experienced Irishman must be worth a go.
John Murphy – SPWAR Playing Record 2020-21
John Murphy – WAGR Playing Record 2020-21
8. Jake BOLTON (ENG) ⇓2 SPWAR #58 / WAGR #59
Limited competitive action in 2021 has seen Jake slide a little but for me it would be unfair for him to miss out on the Walker Cup team due to the pandemic. Since winning the Scottish Open Amateur in 2019 Jake has played consistently well. He reached the semi-finals of the Amateur and South African Amateur Championships last year and also has two top 5’s finishes to his name in Florida in recent years which bode well for him.
Jake Bolton – SPWAR Playing Record 2020-21
Jake Bolton – WAGR Playing Record 2020-21
9. Angus FLANAGAN (ENG) ⇓5 SPWAR #95 / WAGR #41
Angus performed very well in the Western Amateur last summer – 72 hole medalist honours there shows his class – and has a number of recent wins in Minnesota where he continues to study. He now has lots of experience in big events but would help his case further with the men that matter if he could produce a top 10 for the Gophers in The Goodwin event in California next week.
Angus Flanagan – SPWAR Playing Record 2020-21
Angus Flanagan – WAGR Playing Record 2020-21
10. Barclay BROWN (ENG) ⇓3 SPWAR #70 / WAGR #133
Barclay produced a string of fine results in the English Amateur, the Brabazon Trophy and The Amateur last summer. Whilst he hasn’t quite made his mark at Stanford yet, not always making their starting line up, he is playing regularly in the U.S. and hopefully his T5 at Bandon Dunes in early March will boost his confidence. He may still need a high finish in the Cardinal’s home event, The Goodwin, on 25-27 March to seal the deal.
Barclay Brown – SPWAR Playing Record 2020-21
Barclay Brown – WAGR Playing Record 2020-21
Looking at the rest of the players I originally selected in my 20 man squad: –
11. Tom MCKIBBIN (IRL) ⇑2 SPWAR #118 / WAGR #108
A well known name and reputation but are the recent results really there to justify his selection after a positive Winter 2020 touring Australia and South Africa ? Whether relevant or not I was also disappointed to read in a Golf channel article in December that he had chosen not to complete his school exams and in the process had chosen to forego his 2021 scholarship to the University of Florida. Tom’s playing in the Azalea Invitational this week in South Carolina and hopefully can get that good 2021 finish under his belt.
Tom McKibbin – SPWAR Playing Record 2020-21
Tom McKibbin – WAGR Playing Record 2020-21
12. Sandy SCOTT (SCO) ⇓4 SPWAR #216 / WAGR #6
Sandy was GB&I’s star player in the 2019 match at Hoylake and has huge amounts of experience. However, accepting he has been playing an elite schedule for Texas Tech, his results haven’t been good enough to make my 2021 line up. Worse still he hasn’t played competitively since 18th October having injured his wrist during Round 1 of the Maridoe Collegiate invitational. He is due to make his comeback around now following minor surgery. Texas Tech are scheduled to play in the Old Waverley Collegiate in Mississipi on 26-28 March. It won’t be easy for him to make his university team, who have been doing well in his absence, but let’s hope he’s fit enough to give it a go. He may be our highest ranked player in the WAGR but sadly that says more about its accuracy than it does about his current standing.
Sandy Scott – SPWAR Playing Record 2020-21
Sandy Scott – WAGR Playing Record 2020-21
13. Haider HUSSAIN (ENG) ⇓8 SPWAR #79 / WAGR #111
I thought Haider was very unlucky not to be included in the formal R&A Squad given his 2020 results which were arguably as good collectively as anyone else’s. Unfortunately he hasn’t appeared since the European Amateur last September so has fallen down the pecking order.
Haider Hussain – SPWAR Playing Record 2020-21
Haider Hussain – WAGR Playing Record 2020-21
14. Ben JONES (ENG) ⇓5 SPWAR #52 / WAGR #42
In my opinion Ben should have been selected in 2019 but his case for inclusion this time is weaker. I had him 9th in October but his late withdrawal from the Jones Cup and his lack of action in recent months means I reluctantly can’t find a place for him.
Ben Jones – SPWAR Playing Record 2020-21
Ben Jones – WAGR Playing Record 2020-21
15. Olly HUGGINS (ENG) ⇓4 SPWAR #105 / WAGR #134
Olly enjoyed a good 2020 season and must have been close to inclusion in the official R&A squad. However, the pandemic has snookered him in 2021 and by not finding any competitive action has now missed the chance to play at Seminole.
Arron is another very good English player who has performed consistently well for a few years now. He has recently played in the Spanish International Amateur and in a few events on the Evolve Pro Tour but sadly another one who has been deprived of the chance to make a run at the team in 2021.
Arron Edwards-Hill – SPWAR Playing Record 2020-21
Arron Edwards-Hill – WAGR Playing Record 2020-21
17. Joe PAGDIN (ENG) ⇑1 SPWAR #169 / WAGR #91
I was really hoping our resident Floridian could make this 2021 GB&I team. Joe has an excellent match play record and massive potential but unfortunately hasn’t been able to make a big enough impression in his freshman year at the University of Florida. Sadly the Gators had to withdrawal from this week’s Tiger Invitational due to a positive COVID-19 test within their golf program thus depriving him of a timely playing opportunity.
Joe Pagdin – SPWAR Playing Record 2020-21
Joe Pagdin – WAGR Playing Record 2020-21
18. Callan BARROW (ENG) ⇓1 SPWAR #169 / WAGR #427
Callan had a good 2020 but has been unable to play any events in 2021 so like a few others has slipped out of the picture.
Callan Barrrow – SPWAR Playing Record 2020-21
Callan Barrrow – WAGR Playing Record 2020-21
19. Jack COPE (ENG) ⇓3 SPWAR #197 / WAGR #613
After a long spell on the sidelines Jack came back well in 2020 culminating in a commanding win at Woodhall Spa in the English Amateur and a top 10 in the subsequent Brabazon Trophy. No events since last September means he has sadly not had the opportunity before this year’s match to build on his comeback season.
Jack Cope – SPWAR Playing Record 2020-21
Jack Cope – WAGR Playing Record 2020-21
20. Callum FARR (ENG) ⇓3 SPWAR #185 / WAGR #129
English International Callum is a consistent performer and has a number of high finishes in match play events over the years but hasn’t done enough to make the GB&I 2021 team. Sadly failed to make an impression in the Jones Cup his only event in the last 6 months.
Callum Farr – SPWAR Playing Record 2020-21
Callum Farr – WAGR Playing Record 2020-21
Caolan Rafferty wasn’t in my 20 man squad in October but his high WAGR means he is worthy of further comment in this article.
Caolan RAFFERTY (IRL) N/a SPWAR #109 / WAGR #22
Caolan suffered a thumb injury in 2020 and his strict adherence to the COVID-19 travel guidance in Ireland saw him miss out on all of the major British events last summer. He played in the rescheduled Arnold Palmer Cup at Bay Hill in December having originally been selected for the International Team in March 2020. I like Caolan and he was my 2nd pick for the 2019 match at Hoylake but his lack of action must go against him this year.
Caolan Rafferty – SPWAR Playing Record 2020-21
Caolan Rafferty – WAGR Playing Record 2020-21
It would be wrong of me not to mention in passing Dan BRADBURY (ENG) SPWAR #152 / WAGR #99 and Enrique DIMAYUGA (ENG) SPWAR #131 / WAGR 361 who have both been playing well on the US College circuit in 2020/21. Enrique’s Florida Athletic University is about 60 miles south of Seminole G.C.
Appendix 1 – World Amateur Rankings – Top 20 GB&I Players on 18th March 2021
The Walker Cup match is being played on 8-9th May at Seminole GC in Florida.
The actual GB&I squad is being selected in the week commencing 29th March with an announcement expected in early April. In such a difficult year it will be interesting to see who the Selection Committee opt for.
There are 200 days to go until the 2021 Walker Cup match starts on 8th May at Seminole GC in Florida.
So how is the Great Britain & Ireland (GB&I) team shaping up and what opportunities to impress remain for the players before an announcement has to be made by The R&A presumably in early April ?
This was always going to be a challenging Walker Cup for the GB&I selectors given the early May start date. The COVID-19 pandemic has only made it worse for them.
With the 2020 European amateur golf season effectively over the evidence to make an initial selection is now largely to hand so I thought I’d give the powers that be a helping hand.
Here are the ten GB&I players I would select, in order, if I had to choose the team today: –
N.B. Each player’s current SPWAR record shows only their counting performances of note.
1. Joe LONG (ENG)
Joe guaranteed himself a place in the GB&I team with his Amateur Championship win at Royal Birkdale. He has been impressive throughout the last two years and would have been a certainty for me even without his standout victory.
2. Matty LAMB (ENG)
Matty has been superb since play recommenced after lockdown winning both the Tillman Trophy and North of England Amateur both of which enjoyed much stronger fields than normal in 2020.
3. Mark POWER (IRL)
Mark has enjoyed a great last 12 months. He transitioned to Wake Forest University and US College golf seamlessly in his freshman season. His decision to return home and travel to England for this year’s majors paid dividends enabling him to demonstrate beyond any doubt that he clearly belongs at the top table.
4. Angus FLANAGAN (ENG)
Angus stayed in the USA over the summer but whilst out of sight he certainly hasn’t been out of my mind. He seems to be loving life in Minnesota smashing it locally but also performing well in the biggest amateur events in the world.
5. Haider HUSSAIN (ENG)
Haider has arguably had as strong a set of results, admittedly without securing a win, as any GB&I amateur in 2020. His effort in travelling to Switzerland for the European Amateur was rewarded with a notable 3rd place finish.
6. Jake BOLTON (ENG)
Since winning the Scottish Open Amateur in 2019 Jake has cemented his place in the upper echelons of GB&I amateurs. He performed well in the big summer events this year and his 4th place finish at the South Beach International Amateur in Miami last December is encouraging given the match will take place just up the coast.
7. Barclay BROWN (ENG)
Barclay didn’t make that big an impression on me during his freshman season at Stanford University. However, he delivered back home this summer forcing his way into my Walker Cup team with his play in the English Amateur, the Brabazon Trophy and The Amateur.
8. Sandy SCOTT (SCO)
His results don’t jump out at you but Sandy was a rock in the 2019 match for GB&I at Hoylake and he has been playing an elite schedule for Texas Tech. He also competed in the 2020 U.S. Open. With his experience he has to be in the team particularly as he also brings some welcome Scottish representation to the party.
9. Ben JONES (ENG)
In my opinion Ben should have been selected in 2019 and played well around the subsequent year end. Whilst his results post lockdown in 2020 haven’t been as persuasive as I would have ideally liked I am staying loyal to him given his experience and overall track record.
10. Ben SCHMIDT (ENG)
Ben had an unbelievable 2019 albeit mainly in junior golf and started this year very well in Australia. This highly promising Yorkshireman has done more than enough to be included.
The other players knocking on the door and who would be included in my 20 man Squad are: –
11) Olly HUGGINS (ENG)
Olly has enjoyed a good season but needs to find a few more results to force his way into the ten man team.
12) Arron EDWARDS-HILL (ENG)
Arron is another very good player who has performed consistently well for a few years now.
13) Tom MCKIBBIN (IRL)
This Walker cup may come a bit too soon for Tom but he’s playing a lot (which I like) and as he is clearly capable of winning any tournament on his day could still easily force his way into the team.
14. Jack DYER (ENG)
Jack enjoyed an excellent summer on the British amateur circuit featuring well in nearly all of the majors as well as winning the South East of England Links.
15. Callan BARROW (ENG)
Like Jack Dyer above Callan deserves to be in the Squad in my opinion due to his current form which has elevated his status on the national stage in recent months.
16. Jack COPE (ENG)
After a long spell on the sidelines Jack has come back well in 2020 culminating in a commanding win at Woodhall Spa in the English Amateur and a top 10 in the subsequent Brabazon Trophy.
17. Callum FARR (ENG)
Always the bridesmaid never the bride English International Callum continues to be a consistent performer and has a number of high finishes in match play events to his name in recent years.
18. Joe PAGDIN (ENG)
I was really hoping our resident Floridian could make this 2021 GB&I team. An excellent match play record and massive potential but needs to find his feet quickly at the University of Florida if he is to move up this list. I am sure his time will come if not this year.
19. Alex FITZPATRICK (ENG)
Alex was selected in 2019 but his results since the last match haven’t yet been sufficiently persuasive for me to include him in 2021. I wish he’d followed his Wake Forest teammate Mark Power home this summer and sought to earn his place out on the course.
20. John MURPHY (IRL)
Good US experience and continues to perform well for Louisville University but needs to deliver in higher class events to prove he is worthy of a place in my top 10.
Caolan RAFFERTY (IRL) and James SUGRUE (IRL), who both played in 2019, are obvious absentees from the above list. I have assumed James will be turning pro once he has played in The Masters next month whilst Caolan has suffered with a thumb injury in 2020 and his strict adherence to the COVID-19 travel guidance in Ireland saw him miss out on all of the major events.
Other players to impress me this year include Sam BAIRSTOW (ENG), Enrique DIMAYUGA (ENG), Mark BOUCHER (IRL) and Connor MCKINNEY (SCO) who have all stood out but don’t quite make my top 20.
Looking ahead the big unknown remains the future impact of COVID-19. Unfortunately the pandemic raises more questions than answers.
Will the match even take place and if it does, will it be behind closed doors ? Could it be postponed like the 2020 Curtis Cup match was ?
Restrictions are again tightening in many jurisdictions as we head into the higher risk winter period so how much golf will actually be played between now and the match ?
Will our leading players be able to travel to the USA for the South Beach International Amateur in Miami (December) or Jones Cup in Georgia (February) ?
Will golf union funds be available and will players be able to travel on tour to Australia and South Africa early next year as has become the norm in recent years ?
Those players attached to US Colleges will have a few events in the Fall and Spring seasons to help them make their cases with those based at home hoping the Portuguese and Spanish International Amateurs are staged.
There is an opportunity for some clubs to bring forward their 2021 competitions to March / early April to support the Walker Cup selection process. Perhaps The R&A needs to create a new tournament or even consider staging formal squad trials as used to happen.
I look forward to The R&A announcing their Squad in due course and to seeing how the amateur golf world pans out over the next six months.